The Heritage Highway
By the 1820s, several garrison towns had been built between Launceston and Hobart, and by the middle of the 19th century, convict labor had produced what was considered to be the finest highway of its time in Australia. Today, many of the towns along the Heritage Highway harbor magnificent examples of Georgian and Victorian architecture. It takes about 2 hours to drive between Launceston and Hobart on this route (also known as the A1, or the Midland Hwy.), but you could easily spend a couple of days exploring. Picturesque Ross (121km/75 miles north of Hobart or 78km/48 miles south of Launceston) is one of Tasmania's best-preserved historic villages. Ross was established as a garrison town in 1812 on a strategically important crossing point on the Macquarie River. Ross Bridge, the third oldest in Australia, was built in 1836. The bridge is decorated with Celtic symbols, animals, and faces of notable people of the time. It is lit up at night, and there are good views of it from the river's north bank.
The town's main crossroads is the site of four historic buildings, humorously known as "Temptation" (the Man-o'-Ross Hotel), "Salvation" (the Catholic church), "Recreation" (the town hall), and "Damnation" (the old jail). The Tasmanian Wool Centre, 48 Church St., details the growth of the region and the wool industry since settlement. It also houses the Ross Visitor Information Centre (tel. 03/6381 5466; www.visitross.com.au), and both are open daily from 9am to 5pm. If you are so charmed you want to stay overnight, try the historic Colonial Cottages of Ross (tel. 03/6381 5354; www.rossaccommodation.com.au) or the Ross Bakery Inn (tel. 03/6381 5246; www.rossbakery.com.au), an 1832 convict-built coaching inn. Both are on Church Street.